If you’re not already familiar with the ancient Eastern tradition of Ayurveda, let us introduce you. It’s a philosophy that’s been around for centuries and refers to a natural medicine system, rooted in the origins of India. To break it down, the Sanskrit term translates to ‘life’ (Ayur) and ‘knowledge’ (Veda).
Ayurveda is considered to be a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle achieved through balancing the mind, body and soul. It is also known as ‘Yoga’s sister’, with Yoga the tool to connect to your higher self, and Ayurveda a connection to health in your physicality. I first read this in the Idiot’s Guide book, Ayurveda, by Sahara Rose, and felt like I’d just discovered a long-lost family member. Yoga has a sister? Let me meet her…
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look into the beginnings of this fascinating and life-changing approach to diet. Read on for how to get started and to learn the basics of preparing an Ayurvedic meal suited to you.
Discover your Dosha
To begin our journey, we firstly need to identify our Dosha, a term used to outline three unique mind-body types and energies: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Take the quiz to discover your Dosha type and characterisics here.
Ayurvedic philosophies believe that we all make up one of the Doshas, with some of us a mix of two, or even all three. When the Doshas are balanced, we are said to be healthy. However, when they are unbalanced, we can develop disease that usually manifests in skin issues, poor digestion, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.
It’s all about balance
We have the Dosha we are born with, but frequently – through the pressures of life – we tend to steer away from our native Dosha, leading to imbalances in the body.
To give an example from my personal experience, I was living with imbalances including dry skin, dry hair, and bloating after eating. Through Ayurveda, I discovered they were Vata imbalances.
In fact, I am not a native Vata, which adopts a slender and smaller body type and frame. I was experiencing Vata imbalances because I was too thin. This wasn’t something I ever would have thought, realising I was a product of the body image conditioning of our time. Previously believing that being thin was the only beautiful size to be.
Working with an Ayurvedic diet allows you to return to your native Dosha, which in turn means you are eating the foods that will balance and strengthen your digestive system.
An Ayurvedic practitioner can determine your Dosha based on physical, emotional, mental, and behavioural characteristics. Connecting with this information and feeling my body respond positively to a little weight gain has not only made me healthier, but also happier in my own skin.
Eating the Ayurvedic way: The six tastes
From Rose’s cookbook, Eat Feel Fresh, we can learn about the six tastes of Ayurveda. She explains that nutrients are “not described in numbers or letters”, but are instead measured by the following tastes:
– Sweet – Bitter – Astringent – Pungent – Sour – Salty –
Bringing each of these tastes into your meal is the Ayurvedic way of creating balance in your diet for all three Doshas. Below are Rose’s options for the perfect meal.
Mix-and-match from the lists below to include all six tastes in your bowl.
Healthy grains: Quinoa, barley, brown rice
Starchy vegetables: Sweet Potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrot, beetroot
Healthy fats: Avocado, coconut, nut cheeses, almonds, cashews
Plant-based oils: Olive, sesame, coconut, avocado, grapeseed
Leafy greens: Spinach, rocket, Spring greens, kale
Cruciferous veggies: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, courgettes, sugar snap peas, peppers, cucumber
Astringent (plant protein)
Pulses: Lentils, black beans, chickpeas, adzuki beans, edamame
Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, tahini
Garnish: Coriander, dill, sprouts, sesame seeds, microgreens, chia seeds
Spices & aromatics: Cumin, turmeric, ginger, asafoetida, black pepper
Allium vegetables: Garlic, onion, leek, spring onions, shallots
Lemon, lime, apple cider or coconut vinegar
Sea salt, coconut aminos, sea vegetables, celery salt
To ensure the meal is suited to your body type, you need to apply your own Dosha to your creation by incorporating more or less of the tastes that either pacify or increase your Agni (your digestive flame).
Here are Rose’s recommendations for how to adjust the tastes to support your own rebalance:
- Include more sweet, sour, and salty tastes
- Decrease bitter pungent, and astringent tastes
- Include more sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes
- Decrease sour, salty, and pungent tastes
- Include more bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes
- Decrease sweet, sour, and salty tastes
Elements such as grains and sweet potatoes can be pre-prepared. Leaving you plenty of time to create a fresh meal after a busy day or lunch on the go.
There are plenty of delicious recipes to have a go at in the cookbook—Rose has modernised the ancient Indian methods and ingredients to the healthy foods available to us.
This does not have to be strictly vegetarian—keep in mind that meat has been eaten for thousands of years. With this new manual, and Rose’s in-depth knowledge of Ayurveda, we can recreate the balance inside of us that the ancients lived themselves. Very cool indeed.
Doctors of Ayurveda
I remember going to an Ayurvedic Centre in India some years ago with a friend who had booked an appointment. I was left stunned by the depth of information the doctor shared with her. She was spot on, from digestive issues to sleep patterns. It seemed like magic to me at the time. I couldn’t wrap my head around how this woman knew all these things about my friend, simply from a few questions and connecting to her heartbeat.
There are now Ayurvedic Centres in the UK, however I am yet to visit one myself. But if you have been living with imbalances in your body and poor digestion (from IBS to heartburn), and this article resonates with you, perhaps a trip to meet an Ayurvedic doctor could greatly benefit your return to happy, healthy living.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Katie Jane is a Yorkshire-born yogi and poet, who has recently made the move into writing for work after a decade in hospitality and events. She loves to inspire authentic living and share knowledge for connection to consciousness. KJ is currently working on Joy—her yellow Sprinter camper conversion—to fulfil her dream of living an off-grid, remote life while writing a sci-fi novel. A project that's a whole world of epic adventure hanging somewhere between mind and ether.